Jakub Józef Orliński is a countertenor and breakdancer, born in 1990 in Warsaw. He was nominated for a Polityka Passport award and, in 2018, recognised by The Telegraph as one of the 10 most charming opera artists in the world.
As a boy, he sang in a Gregorian choir. He is a graduate of the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music in Warsaw and studied singing with Anna Radziejewska. He took part in the Opera Academy of the Grand Theatre – National Opera, where he took lessons from Eytan Pessen and Matthias Rexroth. During his studies in Warsaw, he often performed in events organised by the UMFC and the Zelwerowicz Theatre Academy in Warsaw. Between 2015 and 2017 he studied under Edith Wiens at the Juilliard School in New York.
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Jakub Józef Orliński and Michał Biel, photo: Honorata Karapuda / press materials
In 2012, he won the first prize at the Rudolf Petrak International Competition in Žilina and a special prize at the 6th European Opera Singing Competition DEBIUT in 2012 in Weikersheim. Further success came in 2015 when he won the first prize at the Marcella Sembrich-Kochańska International Vocal Competition in New York. One year later he won the second prize in the men’s voice category at the 9th International Moniuszko Vocal Competition. In the same year, he won the Grand Finals at the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. After this, Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, a reviewer for The New York Times, wrote that Orliński 'combined beauty of tone and an uncommon unity of color and polish across his range'.
In autumn 2018, Erato/Warner Classics released his debut album Anima Sacra. He was accompanied by Il Pomo D’oro, a band under the baton of Maksim Emelyanychev. This album is dedicated to 18th-century religious arias by composers associated with the German and Italian Baroque, with emphasis on the Neapolitan school. Dorota Szwarcman wrote in Polityka:
Orliński wanted to give listeners not a display of virtuosity, but a spiritual experience […]. Following this concept, the soloist puts more emphasis on the beauty of sound and emotions than on technique, although there is also no shortage of virtuoso pieces.
Orliński searched carefully for an appropriate repertoire – we can hear as many as eight premieres on the album, including works by Nicola Fago, Domènec Terradellas, Domenico Sarro, Francesco Feo, Gaetano Maria Schiassi, and Francesco Durante. This would not have been possible without the help of Yannis François, a singer from Guadeloupe whose passion is to collect rare Baroque scores. As the singer explained on Polish Radio 2:
It took us a year and a half to assemble it in its entirety; first and foremost, to make it make sense. It is not difficult to find unknown works or to dig up something new. Really, there are so many works in the libraries that have not yet been rewritten in our modern notation, but we have tried to make a story out of it. It took a long time, but now we have eight cool world premieres.
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What inspires Orliński in Baroque music? The ability to make numerous choices, artistic freedom and, at the same time, the necessity of observing the many principles of the Baroque style. ‘Starting with its ornamentation, which allows us to take various paths of interpretation’, the artist says. ‘In the ornamentation, you can show your creativity but also reach deeper into the heart of the song and show your artistic personality. Your life experiences become a filter, inspiring musical choices.’ The singer does not neglect a more recent repertoire; he likes to sing the songs of Franz Schubert and Benjamin Britten and is also interested in contemporary works.
Jakub Józef Orliński’s artistic life is not limited to singing – he has also been successful as a breakdancer, which some fellow opera artists try to exploit. He placed fourth in the Red Bull BC One Poland Cypher competition, second in the Stylish Strike – Top Rock competition, and second in the Style Control competition. He has also appeared in commercials and campaigns for well-known brands and concerts as a dancer, model, and acrobat.
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In 2013, together with Arte Dei Suonatori, he sang in Messiah by Georg Friedrich Händel at the Poznań Philharmonic. In the spring of 2014, he played Ruggiero at the German Aachen Theater in Händel’s Alcina. In the autumn of the same year, he sang as Naricsio in Händel’s Agrippina at the Stanisławowski Theatre in Warsaw. The year 2015 for Orliński included performances at the Leipzig Ballet – Oper Leipzig in the ballet performance Othello with choreography by Mario Schröder, where the Polish countertenor played the role of Shakespeare.
A year later he made his debut with the American Houston Symphony Orchestra in Händel’s Messiah, and one of his performances took place at the famous Carnegie Hall in New York. In February 2017, he performed the role of Otto in Agrippina at the Meredith Wilson Theater in New York. At the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence he sang the part of Orimeno in Francesco Cavalli’s Erismena. In autumn he made his debut at the Frankfurt Opera in the titular role of Händel’s Rinaldo.
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polish opera singer
In 2018, he gave a concert based on his debut album and also frequently performed with Michał Biela. He made his debut at London’s Wigmore Hall in the summer of that year. In October he played the role of Unulfo in Händel’s Rodelinda. In August 2019 he returned to the production of Rinaldo several times. It was performed with the Frankfurt Opera as well as at the Glyndebourne Festival in Great Britain.
Originally written in Polish by Filip Lech, translated by P. Grabowski, Oct 2019